Sydney Lewis Sydney Lewis
Senior Coordinator, Communications

Published

November 27, 2023

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Dr. Timothy Magner, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, started his career in education, and like many, made the transition to the business sector transferring skills and experiences to inform his work.

Looking to further develop his acumen and broaden his expertise, Tim applied for the Business Leads Fellowship Program (Business Leads) with hopes of connecting with professionals from around the country and learning from their experiences in various leadership capacities. The Business Leads Fellowship Program, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, equips business leaders with resources and training to improve the connection between education systems, students, and workforce opportunities in their communities through workshops covering education and workforce topics.

As a business leader and advocate for the Shreveport-Bossier region, Tim recognized a professional development need to connect and engage with peers facing similar and diverse challenges related to business and education and saw the program as an opportunity to bridge those gaps.

"For me, it was an opportunity to take that piece of my career experience, if you will, and think about how to integrate that with what I was doing at the [Greater Shreveport] Chamber."

Through the Business Leads Fellowship Program, Dr. Magner had the chance to benchmark his community’s efforts against the work of other chambers and communities across the country. Tim was able to also identify and assess successful strategies to strengthen and empower his community. Further, Tim was able to learn in-depth the different partnership roles a chamber can play when engaging with education systems. In particular, Business Leads helped him identify ways other chambers and economic development organizations nationwide were leveraging knowledge sharing, effective partnerships, advocacy efforts, and best practices to improve early childhood and K-12 education systems in his local community.

A surprise benefit of Tim’s participation in Business Leads is that the program connected him with experts in early childhood education, sparking a focused effort in his community to address gaps in early childhood services in the region. The introduction of solutions to early childhood education pitfalls led to collaboration at the state level to expand access to early childhood education and further address related issues like paid family leave.

"It really helped open up in many ways, a whole new focus for us in our community," says Tim.

Recognizing the critical role that education plays in the workforce pipeline, the program inspired the Shreveport Chamber to engage in a deep dive into industry-based credentialing and dual enrollment in local school districts to strengthen the local workforce pipeline. This deep dive sparked the conversation at the state level about how high school experiences link directly to career readiness and workforce development. This initiative was developed from conversations Tim had with his cohort members. 

"One of the challenges, I think we have a lot of times as executives in a leadership capacity is having access to peers who are either in similar situations, or sometimes in very different situations that we can learn from."

Dr. Magner found when in collaborative environments with his peers that the experience was not only instructive but fostered a sense of camaraderie among participants. Magner notes the vital nature of facilitating face-to-face collaboration can have an immeasurable impact on local communities, bringing innovative ideas and actionable steps. Connecting professionals from across the country with similar challenges creates what Magner calls the “network effect”, encouraging fresh new perspectives on solutions to issues facing Shreveport and beyond.

“I think the program is terrific,” says Tim. “Something that I have appreciated is the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to connect with people, and the opportunity to gain perspective on the role that chambers are playing in education around the country.”

Check out Tim’s interview for The Drumbeat: Conversations on Early Childhood Education discussing the state of childcare in Louisiana and how partnerships with the business community can foster solutions to learn more.

Learn more about the U.S. Chamber Foundation's Business Leads Fellowship Program.

About the authors

Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis is senior communications coordinator for education, workforce and corporate citizenship at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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